Dear Anaïs,

We’ve shared a couple of studio visits over a couple of years, and a few other chats here and there. Here in the kitchen at HISK, there in the park or gallery. Death, memory and time were the light subjects that fed these conversations. I was also able to experience your work in other contexts; once at the SMAK and more recently at the Botanique in Brussels.  Of the works you’ve told me you intend to exhibit, the first you shared with me was “Disarming Reality.” 

I remember how awkward I found the object as it sat there in a wooden box; an uncanny hourglass doomed by its own inability to tell time.  You told me to pick it up, and this inability, with its intended instability, made the glass feel even more fragile than it actually is. It was light and cold as I manipulated it with my fingers and weighed it on my palm. I thought it looked like a bone (though it doesn’t really), an artifact formed with heat and holding ashes. Time is burning. Time is only almost weightless. Time is messy and scorched. It sticks and sputters and speeds up and one day stops.  Time never loses a beat.

The experience I had with your artwork was one that has been rare in all my visits to HISK. Before thinking about a work, I was asked to touch it, feel it, and then read it. I appreciate the direct approach, sincerity and vulnerability in this interaction. All things the world could use more of today. A year later when you introduced me to a somewhat similar sculpture you intend to present (‘the mountain, the tree, yourself’), this entry to experience repeated and I recall considering objects that need to be felt to be seen as opposed to those that need being seen to be felt.  Both objects encouraged the development of rituals, and there’s a very interesting dialogue between this experience and the poetic experiment that places ritual as a character in some of your films.

Like the first work, the second was rested inside a wooden box This time it was not a bone, but an egg, a stone egg; smooth, cold, heavy. I picked it up and this triggered a recording to begin. I moved my ear closer to the box to listen as a voice began telling me a story. Within a short period of time, it was clear that the egg I was holding was leading me like an ekphratic poem, describing scenes vividly as actions occurred in my mind. You said it best yourself, these images are common to all of us and yet different to each of us every time. I supposed we’re back to death here. Originality may not exist (or matter), but the end of the world is different every time.

Time. Both works also left me feeling somewhat released from other time constraints. They gently resist the speed and urgency of processing that contemporary life demands, acting like little weights to pump the muscles necessary to build calm and clarity.  Memory enters at it’s crossroads with imagination, and looking back there’s a clearer reason why I was tempted to curl both of these objects like dumbbells in the gym. 

You know, the first time somebody asked me if I knew what ‘mindfulness’ was I laughed. My mother and father taught me to be mindful, to hold a door, step out of the way, consider others, be kind… what was there to know? Wasn’t it common sense? Common decency?  When the fella explained ‘mindfulness’ to me however (he was developing a ‘mindfulness app’), it seemed I’d had it backwards. What I thought meant thinking of others, now seemed to mean focusing on, while taking a time out from, yourself. I suppose both are true, but all the apps and techniques out there seem to be good reflections of contemporary capitalism. A problem with velocity has been created. This need opened a place for products that help slow it down and see clearly at staggering speeds. These apps fill a need. Remarkably, so do the two little objects, which took me towards myself while insisting I maintain my manners and care of that’s outside of myself.

I’m not sure if I ever shared this with you, but after looking back at my notes from our second meeting, I found this, a response to your films “Rain of Ashes” and “Auction”:

“Ashes descend like shooting stars as life reaches its limit and intimate belongings become crumbs for the market place. Dust to dust, a burial poem for the living. Death, one of the most formative experiences of life while reminding us how sensitive living can be.

Death isn’t elsewhere. It may even be the fabric of life, the thread the connects all beings, all born to exist and die. This is something most people don’t want to deal with. I love how you do.

Until next time,

Harlan